A running joke among my friends and family is that I never met an internal combustion engine I did not like!
I started riding motorcycles when I was ten years old and continue to do so today. Since that time, my interest in things with engines has continued to escalate from cars to just about anything powered by one. Oh, and I like anything that has wheels or goes fast too! So, when I picked up a recent Bloomberg Businessweek and saw an article on McLaren wanting to be the next McKinsey consulting group, it really caught my attention.
You may be asking who is McLaren? McLaren has been building, racing and selling cars successfully for many years. They also have a reputation of being a data obsessed racing outfit, using advanced computer simulation to make adjustments and plans for their racing strategies. They also make telemetry systems for their entire Formula One competitor, along with computerized engine control units for Formula One, Indy Car and Nascar. Five years ago the company launched a consulting firm called McLaren Applied Technologies to use the expertise developed for racing in new markets.
This is a great example of a strategy I coach clients on from Kaihan Krippendorf’s book Out Think the Competition that originates from the 36 ancient Chinese Stratagems. This particular stratagem is “Force Two-Front Battles.”
“Appear at places where he must rush to defend, and rush to places where he least expects” – Sun Tzu
The old way of competing would be to compete within industry lines where we are experts, and McLaren has done this by being very successful at racing and winning a lot of championships. The new playbook suggests that we deploy our expertise to an unrelated industry that forces a two front battle. While our competition is trying to catch us and win in our existing market space, we are competing in an entirely new space while arriving unexpectedly and uncontested in many cases. Autodesk, the CAD software company also did this when they launched Maya, a video animation software that now has a 60% market share.
McLaren recognized that their expertise in data analysis, simulation, and decision support is something that other industries outside of racing would profit from and pay for. Since launching their consulting arm, they have designed better health monitoring systems for sick children, created a scheduling system for Heathrow Airport that reduces flight delays, and worked with oil and gas drillers to better manage their exploration. They have also worked with Olympic teams to improve athlete performance as well as Specialized Bicycles to design smoother, more efficient racing bikes.
This is also an example of looking around your company to see if there are hidden assets that you can capitalize on by creating new offerings for existing or new markets.
McLaren is not giving up racing, but they see a very bright and unlimited future deploying one of their core competencies and areas of expertise to solve problems in other markets.
Here a few questions to ask yourself and team:
- What Two Front Battle might you force?
- Have you looked around your company lately and performed a hidden asset audit?
- Have you updated your Core Competencies and looked to see if they can be leveraged into new markets while still staying true to your Core Purpose?
This is a great exercise to consider as you enter into your next annual or quarterly planning session or even an extended monthly meeting.
Please let me know your thoughts and strategize well, Alan
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win” – Mohandas Gandhi